The Forager's Path - School of Botanical Studies

How to Make Herbal Tea: Infusions and Decoctions

Water Extraction
“Tea”- Infusions and Decoctions

The word tea refers to the plant (Camilla sinensis) commonly known as the tea bush.
Many types of tea come from this bush including black, green, Chinese, Darjeeling and others.
In everyday English, tea is used to refer to many hot water beverages made with a variety of plants.
These are more accurately labeled infusions and decoctions.

While it is possible to use fresh herbs for tea, this beverage is customarily prepared with dried plant matter.
The drying and wetting of plant matter works to break down the internal structure of the plant, releasing its chemical constituents more readily.

Tea #1

Hot Water Infusion

This is most appropriate for dried leaf herbs and is the most common form of herbal preparation in the world.
Heat one quart water until just before boiling.
Pour over 1 oz dried leaf herb in Mason jar.
Cover and let steep at least 20 minutes.
The longer the steep, the stronger the infusion.
It can be made in the evening and left to steep overnite.
Drink throughout the day.
A smaller quantity can be prepared as long as the ratio is the same: ½ oz herb to 16 oz water.

Tea #2
Cold Water Infusion (Sun Tea)

Use this method for:

1. Plants high in volatile oils that would evaporate if heated.
These will usually be flowers or leaves.
The mints are a good example.
Add 1 oz. of herb per quart of unheated water.
Let steep during the day in the sun or overnight in the refrigerator.
Another way to prepare aromatic herbs is to pour hot water over them and steep tightly covered to prevent oil evaporation.

2. Mucilaginous herbs such as slippery elm or marshmallow root.
Cold water alone is enough to extract the mucilage that makes these plants cooling and moistening.
Hot water does this plus it extracts starch and other components.

Tea #3

Hot Water Decoction

Use this method for plant parts that are harder, heavier and more dense. These are usually roots, bark or seeds.
Add 1 oz. of herb to 1 quart water.
Cover and simmer on the lowest setting for 20 – 40 minutes.
Turn off the burner and let steep another 20 minutes.
This can also be made in the evening and left to steep overnite.
Drink throughout the day.
Mushrooms such as Reishi and Chaga contain a hard substance called chitin (yes, it’s the same as the exoskeleton of an insect!).
The hardness of chitin requires a longer decoction.
One hour is a minimum.
2 – 6 hours in a slow cooker is better.

The strength of an herbal tea is determined by:
-the amount of herb
-duration of steeping time
The more and longer, the stronger.


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